Introduction: How to Populate Your Christmas Village (updated)

About: Current projects and interests: --- Re-casing electronics. --- Christmas Villages: solutions, improvements and new ideas. --- N scale model railroading: Compact layout designs, animations.

Does your porcelain Christmas Village look like a deserted town? Are you tired of overpriced figurines and accessories for your Christmas Village? Does it bother you that figurines look grossly out of scale with your buildings? Here are some tips for you...

Step 1: Find Figures

With the popularity of Christmas villaging rising in recent years, everybody seems to want to get into the action. Many drugstores, dollar stores, and even grocery stores, offer figurines, accessories and even buildings to help you build your villages. (Just this year, 2008, Rite-Aid� and Wallgreen's� in my area offered figurines and accessories.) These accessories are cheaper, ranging from $1 to a few dollars a piece.

They also seem to be built at a scale closer to the name-brand (like Lemax� and Department 56�) buildings, so putting them next to the buildings does not make them look like giants living in Lilliputia. Brand-name accessories are really made to be placed in front of their buildings, so their houses look as if they are in the background at a distance. This is called forced perspective. (Look at my picture to see how the non-brand people look much closer in scale than the name-brand.)

The figurines I am suggesting can be placed much closer to the buildings, right next or in them, and still look good.

Step 2: Select Your Figures

Locate in your neck of the woods stores that sell these alternatives to name-brand figurines. They come in single figures, multiple-figure units with the figures shown engaged in some sort of Christmas activity, or even entire scenes. Buy whatever seems to fit your Village theme, taking into consideration things like what do the figures seems to be doing and their time period (Victorian, 1950s, etc.).

Step 3: Improve Your Figures

If the figure quality is not up to your standards (remember - they are inexpensive), you can improve them. For example, you can repaint them. For instructions on how to paint figures, search the Internet for figure-painting tips published on wargaming sites. One of my favorite links for painting figures belongs to a fellow model railroader: Click here for his method of figure painting.

You can also improve the figures by removing casting imperfections by using needle files. I haven't much of modifying or repainting yet, but I will post back here my experiences when I do.

In the picture I have included, you can see a scene (lower left) of a snowman and lots of kids around him. This whole accessory cost $2 and the only improvement I did was to correct some painting errors on the snowman hat using a Sharpee� marker.

Step 4: Place Your Figures

Since there is no set scale for these figures, their sizes vary. The smaller ones can be placed right next to your buildings. If you want a figure placed next to a building door, or on a porch, pick a size that looks right.

Bigger figures can be placed in front of the buildings and still look OK, as they provide a forced perspective. They still will not look grossly out of scale.

In the picture I have included, I show a nativity display built from a $1 gazebo (bought years ago at a dollar store) and figures from a cheap nativity set bought at a craft store.

Don't be afraid to place figures inside a building. If a building represents a store, it will have windows through which we can see the products sold. These stores usually look deserted. You can show shoppers by placing figures in a way that can be seen by viewers through those windows.

Let your imagination be the guide. Isn't what this is all about, any way?